European Commission Vice President Margrethe Vestager, a lead candidate – or spitzenkandidat – of the liberals during the 2019 EU elections, told journalists on Monday that she was sceptical about the process.
The process allows European political parties to select a candidate for the Commission presidency before the European Parliament elections. According to EU treaties, member states at the Council can ‘take into account’ the candidate representing the party with the highest number of seats when appointing the Commission president.
Vestager said she had “personal reservation” about the process since the candidate would run simultaneously for two positions in contradiction with each other, member of the European Parliament on one hand and the Commission presidency on the other.
“You are explicitly running for a seat in Parliament because you want another job. And I haven’t really heard anyone solve that,” she added.
During the last EU elections, the liberals had a team of seven Spitzenkandidaten, including Vestager.
While she stressed that her opinion is not the official position of the liberal ALDE party, she is not the only one in her political family who has questioned the spitzenkandidaten system.
The chairman of the liberal Renew Europe group in the European Parliament, French Renaissance MEP Stéphane Séjourné, told EURACTIV that he could not say whether liberal parties within the Renew Europe group will have a leading candidate, but said that “there should be transnational lists”.
An effort to reform
A year ago, the European Parliament approved several reforms to the EU electoral system, including transnational lists and a legally binding Spitzenkandidaten system.
However, member states have quietly killed off the reform plan, which has not been voted on by the Council of Ministers.
Some member states have argued that the Parliament’s proposal breaches the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality.
The implementation of the Spitzenkandidaten system was also one of the demands of the final report of the Conference on the Future of Europe, where randomly selected EU citizens had a say on EU policymaking.
The initiative was suggested by French President Emmanuel Macron himself at the beginning of his first mandate, together with other pro-European initiatives to reform the EU.
However, Macron himself did not campaign for the conference’s outcomes after May 2022, when EU citizens, after a year of deliberation, delivered their proposals to the three presidents of the EU Commission, Parliament and the Council.
(Oliver Noyan, Sofia Stuart Leeson & Jonathan Packroff, edited by Eleonora Vasques and Benjamin Fox | EURACTIV.com)
Read more with EURACTIV
Spanish employers, trade unions agree on wage increases